Kolkata: Following in the footsteps of Sikkim, Nagaland and Mizoram which decided to go 100 organic, the Meghalaya government is set to initiate a process to get its horticultural and agricultural produce certified as “organically produced”.
“Traditionally Meghalaya is a producer of organic crops with the slash and burn method of agriculture in practice among farmers for a long time, so what is needed is to certify them as organically-produced”, Principal Secretary, Department of Agriculture, government of Meghalaya P. Kharkongor said.
Kharkongor explained that crops like cashew, orange, pineapple and spices like ginger, turmeric and vegetables were being organically grown and the tag was required to market them among health-conscious consumers. “Over the next two to three years we want to convert most of the already traditionally organic areas into certified-organic areas. For the process the Chief Minister will initiate the programme named Mission Organic in another couple of months,” the officer said.
But unlike Mizoram, Sikkim and Nagaland, Meghalaya will not be an entirely organic state, he said. “We are not taking the entire state. At the moment we are trying out some experiments with some of our yields and see how it goes from there,” Kharkongor said, adding that Meghalaya will take about 20,000 hectares of land a year with a plan to convert 10,000 farms into organic-certified ones.
Certification agencies accredited to the Agricultural and Processed Food Product Export Development Authority (APEDA) after inspecting an area to make sure it is absolutely chemical-free will provide a organic stamp. “Once the agencies are certain that an area have no history of chemicals then the certification will be fast. But in certain areas where they find out chemical have been used certification will take minimum three years. So in next two to three years we should be able to certify,” the official said.
On training farmers for getting organic-certification, Meghalaya government has already engaged eight service providers who will train and educate them to get the stamp. “Because organic certification is a very tedious process and requires a lot of documentation we have identified eight services providers who will be the go-between the farmers and the certification agencies. They will also help the farmers maintain the documents and teach them how to get the organic certification,” he said.
On the transportation hurdle to reach to other states with its organic-certified yields because of Meghalaya's hilly terrain, Kharkongor said, “The point is once we have the organic-stamp, we anticipate that the yields will have premium price. And because the productivity may be low compared to the chemically-grown plants an increase in price will be able to make up the reduction in productivity.”
To deal with the transportation hindrances, Meghalaya would try to get the several subsidies available, he said hinting at the one provided by the National Horticulture Mission.
Talking about the marketing of their organic-certified yields, the official said that representatives of the state government had already started doing so and in the process visited Sylhet recently.
“We've recently visited Sylhet (in Bangladesh) which is only four hours from Shillong. They have shown a lot of interest and a team from Bangladesh will visit Meghalaya in next December. They will see for themselves and probably will work out with the farmers on the price issue,” Kharkongor said.
He said that the state government also had plans to host conclaves in the four metros of the country for marketing the organic-certified yields.